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PSY 355 Motivation and the Brain

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Motivation and brain paper
Motivation and the Brain
The brain plays a vital role in motivation. The complexity of the brain and its many
responsibilities make it a primary control center for proper development and functioning of all
individuals. Motivation is necessary in all aspects of life, whether it’s eating healthy, attempting
to quit smoking or drinking, abstaining from drugs, or increasing physical activity. The brain is
one of the main driving forces behind the motivation that is required for these behaviors to take
place. When it comes to eating healthy it is often an internal struggle to maintain a high level of
motivation to sustain a healthy diet. The limbic system, namely the hypothalamus, within the
brain has been closely linked to motivating such behaviors (Carlson, 2007, p.88). There are also
important neurotransmitters, such as serotonin, within the brain that can influence the behavior
of eating healthy. In addition to the influence of brain structures on motivation there are also
extrinsic and intrinsic factors that can have an impact on one’s motivation to eat healthy. The
combination of extrinsic and intrinsic factors accompanied by various structures of the brain all
work together to provide motivation for healthy eating.
Healthy Eating
All humans must eat to survive, but what they eat is an entirely different matter. Each
individual is capable of choosing what, when, and how much they eat (in most cases). Hunger
and satiety are the two main driving factors that lead to food consumption. Hunger determines
when to eat, while satiety determines how much to eat. In a perfect world people would be able
to maintain a constant healthy weight by simply listening to their own bodies, however it is not
always quite this simple. The pleasure that one receives while consuming food can sometimes
motivate an individual to overeat, which can become an unhealthy habit. It is this same type of

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Motivation and brain paper
motivation that can also lead to healthy eating habits rather than unhealthy eating habits. Some
individuals are more motivated by the health benefits of maintaining a healthy diet rather than by
the pleasure that they receive by eating unhealthy foods. Obviously motivation is the key to
understanding these behaviors, but where does this motivation come from?
Brain Functions
There are various parts of the brain that have been attributed to motivating behaviors such
as healthy eating. This includes the limbic system, the hypothalamus, and also a variety of
essential neurotransmitters. These elements of the brain are the key to motivating an individual
to eat healthy. To fully understand how these parts of the brain affect motivation, it is important
to delve into the underlying functions associated with these areas of the brain.
Neurotransmitters and Hormones
Neurotransmitters are chemicals found within the brain that help communicate vital
messages throughout the body and the brain. There are a few neurotransmitters that are
important to motivating a specific behavior, which includes healthy eating. These
neurotransmitters often help trigger hunger or satiety, but they can also help motivate an
individual to stay away from unhealthy foods. In addition to neurotransmitters, there is also
supporting evidence of hormones such as cholecystokinin (CCK), leptin, and ghrelin, to provoke
hunger.
Serotonin is a monoaminergic neurotransmitter found within the brain. It helps relay
messages in relation to moods, emotions, sleep, and appetite. “The sight, smell or expectation of
food stimulates serotonin release in the hypothalamus, a part of the brain known to regulate

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